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One of Kenton’s longest enduring businesses will celebrate a renovation with an open house Friday.
Roby Office Products opened as a printing shop in 1906 in the basement of the Ahlefield Building at the corner of Detroit and Franklin streets. From that humble beginning, the A.E. Roby Inc. company grew to offer a full line of office supplies.
The store was purchased in 1973 by Jerry and Pam Smith and was moved to its current location at 120 S. Main St. in 1977.
Despite competition from nationally-owned chain stores, said Jeff Smith, vice president and manager of the company, the family-owned store has survived and continues to grow. The company also owns a store in Bellefontaine, he said.
Yet there are still local customers who are not aware of the merchandise and services available to them at Roby’s. He is hoping the open house will bring people into the front door who will find the staff not only can be of assistance to them, but the services and products are available at a very competitive price.
“We are trying to change our image,” said Stephanie Carson, accounting manager. “There are a number of people in the community who don’t know we are here. We have an image of the local mom and pop store and people assume we are more expensive than the chain stores, but that’s not true.”
Office supplies are not just needed in the business world, said Smith. The popularity of computers in homes has created a need for printers and supplies. Many of their customers, said Smith, find computers, printers and furniture they need at Roby’s at a lower price than at the major retail stores.
Roby’s also provides customer service not found in the chain stores, noted Smith. By buying their supplies, equipment and furniture at Roby’s, he continued, customers are spending their money locally and supporting the community, but not at any sacrifice.
“This is all we do,” said Smith. “We don’t sell groceries or auto parts. Our people have a broad knowledge of our products.”
Purchases are kept on file so when a customer returns to buy a certain item, the records at Roby’s can determine the buyer’s history. Customers can also track their accounts online at www.RobyCo.com and make purchases on the internet, said Smith. They can also keep track of their favorite purchases with the company.
“That is pretty unique for someone our size,” he said. “Our employees live in Kenton. They are members of the community and we know many of our customers by name and they know us.”
Friday’s open house will showcase the store’s redesigned show room and new product line. Many prizes will be given away through drawings and hot dogs, popcorn, chips, cookies and drinks are available. The store is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Vendors will be on site from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer